We booked this family reunion cruise last August. There were 14 adults booked in 7 rooms on the Main floor (2) in oceanview rooms.
Let me start by saying that all of our other cruises were with Royal Caribbean. We've avoided Carnival because of their reputation as a party boat (loud, drinking, booze cruise). Unfortunately, my mom has always wanted to go to Nova Scotia (only Carnival had cruises there at the beginning of July) and since we were celebrating our parents 60 anniversary and 80th birthdays, we looked at cruises that would take us to Canada. There really wasn't any choice for the dates that all 14 of us could go, so we had to book on Carnival.
Embarkation was easy and pleasant. Some of our group flew in and some of us drove from the midwest arriving the day before. We had time to walk the Freedom Trail in the morning and still board around noon. We shuttled the luggage down to the dock and dropped everyone off and then my husband parked our van in the lot provided. It cost $60 for the 5 night cruise (we paid $35 for the one night at our hotel). Getting on the boat was very easy and everyone was pleasant.
We headed down to our room right away and were greeted by our stewards Pat and Nur. They were great all week and when Pat found out that we were celebrating a special occasion, made sure that she did some things to make my parents feel special - chocolates, towel art, etc. I had brought Welcome bags for the group on board and Pat let me leave those in each room before we headed upstairs to the buffet. We tried Guy's burgers first and they were really good. Throughout the cruise, this was a popular place, but we were always able to get a burger really fast.
After touring the ship and making some spa arrangements and dinner arrangements, we headed to the hot tubs in the back to soak and watch as we left the port... great memory and we really liked the Aft Adult Only pool and hot tubs. Usually quiet and a good view. Let me stop here and comment on our tour of the ship...I was confused by the layout that afternoon and never really figured out how to get around on the ship. You could only go from front to back on deck 5 and 9, so if you came up the wrong staircase and realized that you needed to be in another part of the ship, you had to take the stairs or elevator down to another floor to get where you were going. The trouble seemed to be that the restaurant was in the middle and closed for much of the day. Not a good arrangement.
The decor was not pleasing to me - Carnival/Circus theme?, but it wasn't terrible. I did think that the rooms were bigger than Royal Caribbean and we had plenty of storage room.
One big complaint about Carnival was the lack of entertainment. Royal Caribbean had an early and late showing of each evening's entertainment so that both dinner seatings could enjoy it. We saw the Motor City show which we enjoyed but some of our family walked out of the Divas show. One evening had a magician in the lounge and unfortunately, he was set in the middle of the room where only the people right in front of him could see. He could have been good, but since we couldn't see or understand his thick accent, we ended up just clapping politely and waiting until the end. We did enjoy the family friendly comedy show, but it was also held in a lounge, so everyone was crammed in. On Royal Caribbean, they had a comedian and a magician as main acts in the main theatre where everyone could enjoy them. They also had lots of music in different areas throughout the ship, but Carnival had a smattering of music and it always ended early. We would literally finish dinner at 10 and walk around the ship trying to find somewhere to sit an enjoy some music or dancing. If we did find a spot, it was soon over.
We ate in the lower level Platinum Dining Room at 8:15 each evening. Our waiters made an effort to know our names and preferences which was especially hard as we never sat in the same chairs twice, but moved around so that we could talk with different family members each evening. The food was good and portioned right. Really liked the melting chocolate cake.
The second evening we ate at the Steakhouse which was exceptional. I would highly recommend getting reservations before you board, paying the extra fee and saving room for dessert. I had the surf and turf and the lobster was wonderful! Their cheesecake was huge - we called it the "wall of cheesecake". They should warn you before ordering it because it is hard to eat it all after the wonderful meal that they serve you. Definitely better if you split it with someone!
I did the foot/ankle and hand/arm massage with a facial one day for $59. It took about an hour and was very relaxing although I was surprised that there wasn't a separate room for this. Hard to completely relax with conversations around you. We did utilize the Serenity area and especially liked the round rattan loungers. It was a bit odd that the children's area was right next to this Adults only area.
Another thing I enjoyed about the Carnival cruise was the trivia and games that continued most of the day. Our family could meet up and form a team for a quick half hour game of trivia or wander in and play individually throughout the day. It was a nice break if you just wanted to do something different for a short amount of time. Most of the time this was right next to the casino which wasn't conducive to hearing and lots of people walked through, but for the most part it was a fun atmosphere.
Ports - St. Johns New Brunswick. We stopped at the information center and got a walking tour map. When we got to the King's Square Cemetery, we were stopped by a volunteer with the historical society and he gave us a wonderful tour and lots of information about this area. We also did some shopping and got a Great Lunch at Steamers which is across from the dock. My husband had the $39 lunch which included a large bowl of chowder, roll, bucket of muscles (or shrimp), corn on the cob and a 1 1/2 lb lobster. I did feel like St. John's was a bit of a stretch for a port of call, but enjoyed walking around, nonetheless.
Halifax, Nova Scotia - this was the port we were waiting for and we had given my folks an excursion to Peggy's Cove. Since my mother can't walk for extended periods of time, this 50 minute trip on a comfortable motorcoach out to the little fishing village of Peggy's Cove with it's picturesque light house was just the ticket. The tour guide was excellent and the scenery was beautiful. Our only complaint was the little time we had in the village. I could have walked around, taken pictures, shopped, got a drink for hours, but the stop was only for 55 minutes. Next time we'll rent a car and spend the afternoon.
I should mention that we didn't have the best weather, but we didn't have the worst weather. We were enveloped by fog for the first two days of our trip and some joked that they just had a big fog machine on and the boat would take us across Boston harbor to a little village set up with actors waving Canadian flags and saying "Aye." This didn't bother me because the temperature was still warm enough to sit out and you didn't have to worry about sun burn plus you couldn't tell the boat was moving because the seas were so calm. The fog horn that the ship used was incredibly loud (hopefully so that no one would ram into us :) ) and it was hard to doze on the deck. I also heard that anyone that had a balcony room heard the fog horn all night! Thank goodness we couldn't afford a balcony for this cruise. Our last sea day was beautiful and we loved watching the whales and dolphins all day.
I'm not sure if Royal Caribbean offers the Self Assist option for dembarkation, but it worked beautifully for us. We were the first ones off, got the car and were driving home within a 1/2 hour of our the ship allowing people off the boat. A great trip with lots of memories and fun times. I would definitely try Carnival again.